Posted On March 24, 2014

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A recent Forbes article entitled “Why Investing in Your People Makes Good Business Sense” made the point that employers shouldn’t worry about what happens if they invest in their people and they then leave the company.
Instead, they should worry about what happens if they don’t invest in them—and they stay.

Most employers today know the importance of developing their people. They’ve read and understood the bona fides of Jack Welch’s famous quote: “An organisation’s ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

But what about employees? If they want a competitive advantage, say on the job market or in the race for promotion, don’t they have responsibility for their own development?

Of course, we all do. Everyone knows how tough it is out there. Talk to people who’ve lost their job and you’re likely to hear them say they wished they’d made their employment “safety net” a little bit larger and had been more earnest about honing their personal and professional skills.

Instead, they may have grown complacent, as a result dispensable and, quite possibly, finding it more difficult than it should be to land their next job.

That said, too many people leave it to their next performance review to be told by their supervisor it’s time to make some improvements.

When should you think about finding a training course or other learning activity of interest? Maybe the trigger will be that upcoming performance review, or an interview for a job or promotion. You might sense a change in the air at your workplace in the shape of “right-sizing” or “restructuring.”  Perhaps you’re about to return to the workforce—or maybe you simply want to increase your confidence and self-esteem.

Whatever your catalyst for change, continuing personal education is all about your plans for the future.

If you’re currently on the job market you don’t need to be told that employers often decide between evenly matched job hunters by comparing small-but-important things about them, like how they communicate, their leadership potential, knowledge of technology and project management, and the emphasis they place on their own improvement. Skills and attributes like these will often tip the balance in one job seeker’s favour over another.

And if you’re in a job and vying for promotion, you know that keeping your career moving onwards and upwards takes effort, not just job performance. There’s little doubt supervisors look at your abilities to adjust, adapt and meet the challenge of changing circumstances. How you communicate and handle people is always important, and, perhaps, how well you keep your technical abilities sharp in today’s world of software updates, new operating systems and specialised applications.

Whatever it is that drives you to skill up, what you do and how you do it will vary on your circumstances. But keep an open mind.

Mentoring with someone who’s already achieved goals similar to yours can help, as can finding a coach for one-on-one guidance and personal insight needed to improve your abilities. There may also be public seminars, free webinars and even YouTube clips on what it is you may want to learn.

A word of caution: ignore so-called “soft skills”—like how to manage your time, stay in control of a project and how you influence others—at your peril. Not only can they shift the odds in your favour in a competitive situation for a role or promotion, they can help cultivate important skills needed for your entire life, not just work.

And here professional assistance is nearly always the best assistance, whether taking a class, enrolling in an online forum or working with someone you know and trust who can teach you these skills.

The quality of your training is also important. Getting mentored is one thing, but getting a certification or nationally recognised qualification can propel your career to a whole new level.

Another aspect about personal and professional development to remember is that, over the long sweep of their careers, most people today will change not just their jobs but their professions more often than ever before in history. Keep an eye on the future and remain cognisant of what new skills you might need “over the horizon.”

Speaking of over the horizon, at TP3 we don’t wait that long. We make a point of asking course participants what other courses may interest them, what additional skills they might need at work, or what’s next on their personal or professional development plan.

For example, if they’ve just completed an introductory course in influencing skills will they next move on to learn advanced skills such as how to influence a team, engage with multiple stakeholders, form strategic alliances or drive change?

And are they going to commit and press ahead—or will they wait for that next performance review to start, or worse, a situation beyond their control?

The moral of all this is that if your employer wants you to go on a professional development course or program, the last thing you should think is, “Oh no, not another training course.”

Jump at the opportunity. Not only is it exhilarating to learn new skills, let’s not be sensitive: you’ll be saving money because it’ll be at the boss’s expense and, more importantly, it’ll be a sign that your organisation sees a genuine reason to invest in you.

And you’ll be sending your own signal—that you’re worth it.

Our public training courses are listed here. We’d love to see you there!